Fifty-five years after the group first came together, they are all that remain. Yet Dolenz and Nesmith turn that into a strength on The Monkees Live: The Mike & Micky Show, offering no shortage of nuggets for die-hard fans. They include “St. Matthew,” from 1969’s Instant Replay and “Auntie’s Municipal Court,” from the previous year’s The Birds, the Bees & the Monkees, which had never been played live by the group. Dolenz and Nesmith also delve further into albums like 1967’s Headquarters.
“These are songs that we’ve had with us for a long time, and it was sort of hard to get ’em launched back in the day,” Nesmith tells the audience at one point with a chuckle. “But now, me and Mick just do ’em!”
At the same time, the recently released The Monkees Live: The Mike & Micky Show opens with “Last Train to Clarksville,” a sign that casual fans will hear plenty of the band’s hits. Dolenz and Nesmith pulled together an evening of songs that covered the essentials, next-steps and deep cuts with a well-rehearsed band. They also made it feel like a journey, peppering the songs with quick anecdotes and funny stories.
Listen to ‘As We Go Along’ From ‘The Mike and Micky Show’
There are some new revelations along the way. Their update of “As We Go Along,” from 1968’s Head, is one of many moments that highlight Dolenz’s theatrical approach as a singer. He’s worked on Broadway in recent years, but says the connection actually goes deeper than that, since his parents were actors, singers and musicians.
“I guess to some degree, it had to have started with that, just being exposed to music,” Dolenz tells UCR. “Not just listening to music on the radio, but hearing my dad singing and rehearsing for auditions as a musical artist. He did musical movies. My mom sang in the big-band era and then did musicals as an actress.
“I suppose it had to have helped to be exposed to that as a child. And then there’s the nature part of it. You have to be gifted and blessed with the right muscles – because singing is a muscle, your vocal cords. So, there may be something to do [with that] there.”
Dolenz joined the Monkees as a self-taught singer, though he later received professional training. “When you start getting older, you need a little help,” he says with a laugh. “I started taking lessons when I started doing serious musical theater on Broadway. My manager at the time said, ‘You really should take some breathing lessons – because eight shows a week, doing big full-blown musical theater songs, can be very taxing.’ He was absolutely right. That helped a lot.”
Listen to ‘You Told Me’ From ‘The Mike and Micky Show’
The Monkees Live: The Mike & Micky Show also spotlights Nesmith’s contributions to the band’s legacy, both in the way his voice blends with Dolenz’s and in the group’s choice of material. He’d already been offered a songwriting deal before The Monkees TV show was cast, and later served as a key figure in the still-emerging country-rock genre. Still, he’s been only an occasional participant in the Monkees’ subsequent reunions.
“He has a very distinct style and a very distinct sound and sensibility,” Dolenz says. “He was doing that electric country psychedelic [thing] way back in the ‘60s. I don’t consider myself a prolific songwriter. I have written a few songs, but only a few. Nez is the real deal. He is a prolific songwriter, hundreds of tunes.”
Nesmith’s rootsy post-Monkees group, the First National Band, has become widely hailed as pioneers of the genre. Dolenz notes that influence in The Monkees Live: The Mike & Micky Show, which includes several Nesmith originals, and in country acts over the years. “Nez was there back in ‘65 and ‘66 doing that kind of stuff,” he says. “I’ve always been a big fan of Michael Nesmith.”